20 May 2008

Visit to Bologna

Bologna is a town I have been wanting to visit so last week we took the opportunity to take the Eurostar train from San Benedetto del Tronto up to Bologna. It has been awhile since we took a train as the only train to Ascoli Piceno goes to the coast and Porto d’Ascoli. I used this as practice in the process of procuring tickets and booking a hotel myself, something Valerie the travel expert usually does.

We stayed in the centro storico, just a few steps from Piazza Maggiore and even though our room was above a street full of fruit and meat shops we had a good location. We spent three days and two nights seeing the main sights of Bologna based on some travel notes I had pulled from SlowTrav.com along with some restaurant recommendations from a friend of ours who is a native of Bologna.

Bologna is famous for its food which we partook of but we also found a restaurant with Indian food and one whose specialty is Lucanian food. Since Ascoli Piceno has a lack of ethnic food we always take the opportunity to sample ethnic when we can and never pass up the chance for food from Valerie’s home region.

We visited the main squares, churches and walked many of the porticos. It was interesting to see how the porticos evolved from slight overhangs to being wood supported and then masonry fixtures of the city. The wood porticos reminded us of some of the porticos in New Mexico. Valerie wondered some of the small streets while I took the almost 500 steps to the top of the Torre degli Asinelli which provides amazing view of the city below. Bologna has about 20 existing towers, much fewer than Ascoli Piceno but none of the ones here are assessable.

Another interesting feature of Bologna is the two large churches that have unfinished facades. The largest church, San Petronio, named for the city’s patron saint has an unfinished marble façade and there is another deconsecrated church we saw with a similar unfinished façade. Apparently the leaders of Bologna have problems finishing what the start?!

The Jewish ghetto area is interesting to wonder with cobblestone streets and many examples of earlier portico styles. Near that area you will also find a small section of Bologna’s former canal system but you have to know where to look. The San Stefano complex of churches is also fascinating to see how the original Roman temple was incorporated into a new church and other churches added. Here you will also find several memorials to Bologna’s sons and daughters who gave their lives for their city and country.

We enjoyed our visit to Bologna and would recommend it to anyone for a few days and also as a base to visit other parts of northern Italy as it is a major rail connection. (To take a train from Ascoli Piceno to Roma you must go to Bologna to change trains south to Roma). Restaurants and bars were much more expensive than here but expected for a major tourist location.

One aspect I was disappointed in was the caffe, I tried caffe at several different bars and they all seemed weak. They just weren’t the quality I expect in Italy.


erin said...

We haven't been to Bologna yet either. Glad you had a chance to visit. Hopefully one day we'll make it there!

Anonymous said...

The interior of San Petronio was breathtaking. We went in at night so it was rather dark inside and seemed to go on forever. It was like something out of Lord of the Rings.

We went back in the daytime to check out the accuracy of the solar calendar and to see the Foucault Pendulum. It was an interesting blend of science and religion.

Bryan said...

Erin, You shall return...

Steve, That is a big church, too bad the Pope put a stop to their expansion. The solar calendar in there is similar to the one in Rome at Santa Maria degli Angeli (near Termini)

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly the further North you go the weaker the coffee. It seems that they give you more in the cup but it is weaker.